The Beginning: Police Matrons, Mid-Late 19th Century


Women in Law Enforcement Timeline

The Beginning: Police Matrons, Mid-Late 19th Century

Photograph: Matron Sarah Hill, ca. 1900. 2010.29.13.
Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum, Washington, DC.

Matron Sarah Hill

In 1854, the first known police matrons (also called jail matrons) were hired by New York City to search and guard female prisoners, but they were civilians with no law enforcement powers.

Sarah Hill (pictured) became the second police matron in Davenport, Iowa, hired in 1893.

Part of a larger police matron movement in the United States that began in Portland, Maine, in 1878, Matron Hill worked for 27 years to care for female criminals and their children.

Police matrons’ duties varied, but they included sheltering and protecting women and children in police custody.